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Fire Management

Refuge staff doing a prescribed burn on the Refuge. There is smoke and fire to the left of the road.The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service manages fire to conserve, protect, and enhance fish, wildlife, and plants and their habitats, while first ensuring human safety and then protection of our facilities and neighboring communities. Prescribed fire and other means maintain and restore vegetation in natural areas while reducing the risk of damaging wildlife to land and property.

Like wildlife, wildfire has always been part of natural areas. Without this unique ecological process periodically cleansing dead and overgrown vegetation and recycling nutrients back into the soil, there could be no native prairie. 

Some prairie plants simply can't germinate unless exposed to the heat of fire. Fires can stimulate growth of native grasses and wildflowers, while destroying many woody and non-native plants, and creates a mosaic of vegetation for mating and nesting. Fire also benefits some endangered species and rare and natural areas. For the most part, wildlife populations remain safe during a fire and enjoy better living conditions afterwards.

As you tour the Refuge today you may see evidence of recent prescribed burns. Native grasses in the Northern Great Plains evolved under the influence of periodic fires and prescribed burning is used today to mimic these natural events. Fire removes old vegetative growth, releases nutrients back to the soil, decreases woody species, promotes the growth of native plant species, and reduces the amount of organic matter on the soil surface. If soil moisture is adequate, grass yields increase because baring and darkening the soil surface allows it to warm more quickly and stimulate earlier growth, and because competing weeds are suppressed. With less vegetation in the wetland itself, it requires less runoff to produce open water for migratory birds.

Prescribed or controlled burning is used at the Refuge to manipulate wildlife habitat. The goal of our burning program is to improve wildlife habitat, specifically, nesting and migration habitat for migratory birds.
Last Updated: Mar 28, 2013
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